on 28 February 2010
From the cover, the contents page, to the end of the book, this is an extremely well designed, researched and written book. I read it on holiday far away from the stresses of work and I got so inspired that I couldn't wait to get back and put it into practice. I love all the points of views from the various departments in an organisation and how every idea is backed up with an example of where this kind of approach is already working. It's inspirational and pragmatic.
There are so many interesting facts and original ideas that you feel as if you're being let in on tens of secrets and thought process, which will make you more successful in the future. I'm recommending the book for my delegates at The Chartered Institute of Marketing, my staff and clients.
on 8 April 2010
This book has its good bits and its not-so-good bits. It is certainly thought provoking and sparked off all kinds of ideas about what is possible. It is very wide ranging (libraries, the health care system, tax) and appears in general to be very well researched.
It was marred by several things. Firstly in a few particulars it was factually inaccurate (e.g in the assertion that print-on-demand - POD - books do not have ISBNs. The author misses a trick here - the ramifications of POD are potentially huge). Secondly the book is very ethnocentric. Just for example, Chinese internet usage is closing fast on the US. By mid century, China will have eclipsed the US and what China is doing on line will matter more to us than what the US is doing. Another example of ethnocentricity: the assertion that what Africa needs is the Internet. This is just asinine (try clean water).
The third weakness was an overliberal application of semantic pixie dust. We have "semantic information" (what other kind of information is there?), "semantic formats", "semantic legal documents", "semantic feedback" etc: and although I suspect that the author knows what he means by the term, he doesn't define it adequately for the rest of us. For example, he talks about "semantic" meaning (among other things) "unambiguous". I think what he means is that "there is never any doubt what a piece of data represents or to what/whom it applies". So "semantic" data combines the data value itself (39.4), what it represents (weight in kgs) and what it refers to (a particular make and model of lead-acid battery): but that is my extrapolation, not the author's.
The fourth weakness is that his depiction of the future does not even acknowledge the risk of the wholly disruptive. I recall reading in the 1960s a book written in the 1930s about the future of commercial aviation. It was comical because the author had not anticipated the gas turbine, the second world war or the social changes that ushered in mass air travel. This author might have been wise at times to have taken a broader view and shown greater humility in his prognostications.
on 19 February 2011
I read this book expecting a primer in semantic web with some vision tacked onto it (to maybe get me enthused). What I found was a raft of futurism (of around the ten years hence type). Now, I actually don't think there is enough futurism around right now (ten years hence is too far though) so I wasn't disappointed and it was quite a fun read but it should perhaps be more honest in its intention.
The core vision is - the personal data locker. This is a sort of Facebook; but one that places the data back with you in an open/linked format (rather than Facebook's walled-garden). This enables you to have more control, great data-integration and better services - through competition (in theory, you can give your data to whoever you like). In turn, this means that futurist scenarios (of which many are described) can be realised. The logic here is undeniable and this concept is the most interesting aspect of the book. I particularly liked the "passive commerce" idea. It doesn't go far enough though. The scenarios described require literally hundreds of preferences to be maintained for each person. Who will do this? The consumer won't certainly. Syllogy could maybe do it (through semantic web reasoners) but the book doesn't have much to say about this (or any of the steps required to practicably realise the personal data locker).
I think the vision eventually gets a little confused since it revolves around the semantic web, the personal data locker and the concept of "pull". This is too much for a vision. If the author had stuck with the personal data locker; he'd have more than a best-seller - he'd have a real manifesto for the future (and VC's biting his arm off).
It also has several case studies for projects that are only tangentially related to the personal data locker e.g. XBRL, taxation and lots of RFID tagged things and these come over as filler. If they were related, the connection should have been much more explicit (I simply couldn't see it).
Finishing-up though, I liked this book - as a piece of futurism. It wasn't a tough read and gave me some good ideas. The author seems amiable and passionate enough. Its for potential entrepreneurs I think.